Israel Luna writes and directs the 2011 horror picture The Ouija Experiment. Made for an estimated $1,200, there’s something admirable about its gumption. It doesn’t feature the best acting and the special effects are kind of adorably quaint, which suggests that Luna has the chops to make do with less.
Unfortunately, things are scrambled beyond the point of coherence and The Ouija Experiment swings between predictability and indulgence. There are nods to cultural landmarks, with a host of YouTube references and mentions of the first two Paranormal Activity movies.
The found footage picture opens as Shay (Belmarie Huynh) and Brandon (Carson Underwood) are on their way to the house of friend Michael (Justin Armstrong). Shay is dating Calvin (Eric Window) and LyNette (Swisyzinna) is hanging around. LyNette freaks out when Michael reveals that he wants to use a Ouija board, which automatically makes her the smartest person in the room.
Brandon wants to film the whole thing and Michael isn’t all that down with it, but the camera keeps rolling anyhow. The group comes in contact with something through the board and a series of unfortunate events leads to the unleashing of some sort of spooky presence.
Most of what happens in The Ouija Experiment is immersed in supernatural clichés, like how a little girl is at the centre of it all. And there are rules to the Ouija board, which involves the insight of a YouTube expert via video conference because why not.
The chills come from reflex “scares,” with odd noises and abrupt appearances springing into frame. Characters mosey off into the dark, camera in tow, and something will jump out or make a noise or something. And so on.
Luna’s management of the genre tropes is acceptable in terms of mere exercise, but the plot is convoluted. He even employs an overlong flashback sequence – in a found footage movie, this is especially strange – to ensure the audience understands what happened to the little girl.
The characters are typical and they have little backstories to work through. Shay and Calvin are going through romantic difficulties because Shay figures Calvin’s fooling around. There’s a scene inside Calvin’s bedroom, where Shay gets in the shower off-camera and whatnot.
Swisyzinna provides the bulk of entertainment value and not just because she possesses certain aesthetic qualities. She maintains sure charisma throughout the picture, even when she’s asked to mimic and cite Paranormal Activity to the point that she sets a camera next to herself while she sleeps.
But for all the effort jammed into The Ouija Experiment, it’s just not very good. While marks for effort are earned, the plot is too longwinded and the scares are too conventional. Many micro-budget horror pictures can produce terrifying results from characters that matter and scenarios that chill to the bone. This isn’t one of them.